Curriculum intent & design – how not to do it


Whilst curriculum design may be the remit of subject leaders, how much training and guidance do they get? How much time do they get to really think about the principles and values they want to underpin their subject?

From a discussion with a colleague about curriculum, I thought I’d ponder those things that in themselves may not be good rationales designing a subject curriculum or processes for creating schemes.

So this list is intended to support thinking more deeply about what we do. This is in an ideal world of course; we all have limiting factors in decisions we make.

Some are deliberately ambiguous but included to encourage thought and discussion.

How not to do it….

Design & Ordering

  1. Choose the most ‘fun’ topics first
  2. Choose topics in pre-GCSE year just to get students to choose the subject (and then wonder why the GCSE isn’t always like that)
  3. Put topics at the start that need foundational knowledge to understand when they don’t have that knowledge
  4. Design them on your favourite topics
  5. Design schemes that are completely linear and don’t develop skills and knowledge over time
  6. Asking someone else for their curriculum/schemes on a forum and using that (without any thought to the underpinning principles and values)
  7. Teaching a series of stand alone units with no links between units.
  8. Have no consideration of how students will remember over the long term
  9. Trying to include everything and anything to tick a box when it might not be appropriate (literacy, numeracy, SMSC etc)
  10. Designing it for a particular group (that may be underachieving) e.g boys, Pupil Premium.
  11. Design the curriculum around a data collection system (or any other accountability system)
  12. Teach a course following through a text book from start to finish (without consideration if order is appropriate)


  1. Making up assessments after you’ve taught the topic; an after thought
  2. Creating assessment tasks that don’t assess the things you’ve taught
  3. Asking on a forum for an assessment task (when no-one knows what you are going to/have taught)
  4. Designing an assessment task for its engagement/fun with little relevance to outcomes of learning
  5. Think that written assessments are bad
  6. Put in assessment points just to meet data entry requirements
  7. Assess using just GCSE exam questions at key stage 3

Subject content

  1. Teach GCSE specifications at key stage 3 as the curriculum
  2. Teaching knowledge and no skills
  3. Teaching skills and no knowledge
  4. Allow each teacher to decide what they’re going to teach from a subject, so students in the same year group all learn different things
  5. Including ‘everything’ at a superficial level without depth
  6. Choosing ‘easy’ topics that lack rigour
  7. Have no awareness of how your subject links to other subjects
  8. Choosing topics solely due to the existing books/texts you have


  1. Limiting your curriculum it for your ‘type’ of students (e.g. perceived ability, socio-economic status etc)
  2. Ask students what topics they want to learn about and only include them
  3. Designing a curriculum based on skills of the future; preparing students for ‘life’

2 thoughts on “Curriculum intent & design – how not to do it

  1. Pingback: RE Curriculum development | missdcoxblog

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